Artist Gallery
Zak Barnes

Born and raised in Kansas, I feel a deep connection to the prairie landscape and to the people of this land. These are the base and anchor of my work and set the emotional tone for any narrative that plays itself out in the paintings. My strongest influences are my immediate environment, life experiences, and the way my mind interprets this information. I live alternatively within remote and more cosmopolitan settings, working both in the studio and in the landscape. In this way, I am able to explore a wide range of physical and emotional experiences.

I find fulfillment in the rhythm of my days out in the open, loading and unloading the truck with equipment, paints and dog, setting up, and working with the elements. There is a physical as well as mental work in the process, so that it becomes a meditation and a practice. I create all of my landscape work on site, with no preparatory drawing or reworking in the studio. I attempt to capture the fleeting moment in paint texture and color, in mood and measure. The scene changes with each passing moment, demanding a concentration of attention and quickness of hand, I paint with brush and pallet knife, often limiting the palette, using earth tones to accentuate moments of color.

In the studio, the landscape becomes secondary, drawn from memory, a setting and backdrop for human interaction. Narratives in a loose sense, I reference folk art, surrealism and contemporary compositional practices to create ambiguity in both period and environment. Natural and manmade elements are placed in concert, creating a space of pleasant sharing.

The emotional quality of the work builds with the composition. The elements are arranged and rearranged many times in the course of the painting. Working from nonspecific to specific, colors and shapes eventually settle into threads that connect and integrate. Figures and objects interact within their environment with a certain disregard for physical laws. It is the movement and emotional space created that is important.

I have reached a point in my painting where I feel comfortable with my working methods, in control of the paint, and able to “play” with compositional elements. In my landscape work, I attempt to remain true to the prairie, manipulating the materials in ways that will express the movement of light and shadow, with the clouds blossoming across the sky. In the studio, I look for new ways to combine stylistic qualities, pushing the composition in new directions in order to express ideas. I refer to myself as an “artist’s artist”. I work for personal growth as an artist, and for anyone who finds something in what I do.